A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Predictions, Predictions, Predictions everywhere: The 2011-2012 NBA Eastern Conference

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Miami Heat

It appears to be a 2 team race between the Heat and Bulls in the East (Image by Keith Allison via Flickr)

Who’s coming out on top in the Eastern Conference this year? My predictions:

15. Washington Wizards (14-52)- Frankly, any team who finishes with a worse record than Charlotte should be embarrassed. Nevertheless, the way that happens is with a team who takes dumb shots, turns it over like crazy and is ambivalent defensively. One of the key points separating the bad from the horrible will be which teams pack it in after poor starts. In this compressed schedule and with tired legs, many young and immature players may see a 10 point deficit as a reason to take the rest of the game off. Washington has a lot of those players.

John Wall in preseason has played unfortunate, still pushing the ball too fast and too out of control, rather than reading his teammates and controlling the pace of the game. There’s still time but I believe he is an overrated prospect due to having the athleticism but not the basketball IQ of a player like Derrick Rose.

14. Charlotte Bobcats (15-51) – This team should play harder defensively than most bottom-feeders, but they will struggle to score immensely. Their offense will rely on Kemba Walker and Corey Maggette “42%”ing their way to individual scores. The Bobcats will see a neutral game fall to a 10 point deficit and a 10 point lead fall to a neutral game quickly just out of huge cold stretches. Again, the compressed schedule hurts a one sided team like the Bobcats because it’ll be incredibly hard to erase 10 or 15 point deficits if they have tired legs considering how hard they’ll have to work to score.

13. Toronto Raptors (16-50) – Like the Bobcats, the Raptors should have a respectable defensive effort and do pass the ball, but just have too weak of a roster to escape the basement. In preseason the offense looked atrocious after surely spending all their time and energy on the new defense under Casey. The Raptors have probably the worst perimeter rotation in the league with terrible PG play, almost no 3pt shooting and no perimeter players who can reliably create their own offense off the dribble. Jay Triano’s “offense only” system last year masked how truly untalented the team is offensively on the outside. Expect a lot of games to get out of hand this year for the Raptors.

12. Detroit Pistons (23-43) – Once again an utterly bizarre mix of undersized SGs and soft big men, the Pistons should play better defensively on the perimeter this year under Lawrence Frank but still lack both the PG play and interior presence on either end needed to be more than a mediocore to bad team. They need to trade the ill fitting Ben Gordon and Charlie Villaneuva as soon as possible, or use their amnesty on Villaneuva.

11. Orlando Magic (23-43) – This prediction encapsulates what I believe will happen with Dwight Howard, which is a trade to the New Jersey Nets at midseason for roughly Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, Marshon Brooks and as many 1st round picks as possible. The team should play solid basketball until then, before collapsing wildly after Dwight’s departure.

10. Cleveland Cavaliers (29-37) – You heard that right. The Cavaliers have a good frontcourt mix with a shooter in Jamison and two rebounding hustle guys in Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson, they have more shooting and smart players on the perimeter in Anthony Parker, Omri Casspi and Daniel Gibson and they have Kyrie Irving and Ramon Sessions running point at a respectable level. A good frontcourt, good shooting and solid PG play is the makings of a middling and not terrible team.

9. Milwaukee Bucks (32-34) – The Bucks season has started shaky with Stephen Jackson’s back injury-or is he just holding out for an extension drama. They should play great defense with a healthy Bogut, but a lack of perimeter offense in general headlined by the poor shooting/decision making Brandon Jennings puts them at a big disadvantage compared to the other East squads. They’ll be a solid team but you might need a little more than that to make the playoffs in the East.

8. Atlanta Hawks (35-31) – The Hawks are what they are. They’ll play good defense due to a strong frontcourt and perimeter athleticism and will score enough between Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford and veteran shooters to win a little more than half their games.

7. Boston Celtics (36-30) – The Celtics are in for a troubling season due to terrible depth to withstand the compressed schedule and older legs having likely led to a decline this year anyways. They’re smart and the starting lineup will help push early leads in games, but I could see them losing in 4th quarters a lot due to poor energy level from the aging cast. Kevin Garnett is one of my picks for the “Wow, he really fell off hard this year” aging player award. A lot of Hall of Fame bigs from Shaq to Hakeem Olajuwon to Patrick Ewing, really hit the pavement in caliber of play before they retired.

6. New Jersey Nets (38-28) – Again, I have them pulling off the Dwight Howard trade at midseason. Until then I have them playing playoff .500 ball anyways though even with Brook Lopez’s injury. Deron Williams has shooters (Anthony Morrow, Deshawn Stevenson, Mehmet Okur), a perimeter defender/utility guy (Andrei Kirilenko), a hustle rebounder (Kris Humphries) and a bench sparkplug (Marshoon Brooks) in the Nets toybox.  They desperately could use more big man depth behind Humphries and Okur but I believe this team is experienced and solid enough to stay afloat until Lopez comes back or the Howard trade is pulled off

5. Philadelphia 76ers (39-27) – Many people have been jumping on the Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers bandwagon as athletic and deep teams who can use that as an advantage in the compressed season, but don’t forget about the Sixers. They have as deep a perimeter rotation as anyone with Jrue Holliday, Lou Williams, Jodie Meeks, Evan Turner, Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young all getting out there, in other words, they’ll be a torture chamber for tired teams and as the anti Celtics will be much more fresh than some teams to win games in the 4th quarter. Jrue Holliday is one of my picks for legitimate all-star breakout, emerging as the real star and driving force of this very good team.

4. New York Knicks (40-26) – The Knicks will likely be much more dangerous in the playoffs than starting the season since Baron Davis will be healthy and gelled into the team, and it appears all but a lock that Kenyon Martin will be joining them when he is freed from China at approximately the end of February. Both acquisitions would be huge. Davis could run the pick and roll and toss lobs to Amare Stouemire and Tyson Chandler and Martin is the perfect defensive toughness big they need in that frontcourt to complete. Until then I expect them to play good but not great ball with a dominant starting frontcourt but very weak perimeter creation and little in the way of backups in the frontcourt. Iman Shumpert looks like a blessing for the Knicks if he can provide legitimate starting SG production on both ends.

3. Indiana Pacers (41-25) – The Pacers are one of the most talented of the “depth” teams. Offensively, they have post skill between Roy Hibbert and David West and great shooters in Danny Granger and Paul George, and with good passers in Collision and Hill at PG creating these outside and inside shots. Defensively they have a 7’2 shotblocker in Hibbert great perimeter defenders in Danny Granger, Paul George, Dahntay Jones and George Hill, and a handful of hustle bigs to throw out at other teams in Tyler Hansbrough, Lou Amundson and Jeff Foster. They’re smart, they play hard defensively and they’ll be fresh all game thanks to their depth. They are an ideal compressed schedule team and should be headed for a very nice season.

2. Miami Heat (48-18) – The Heat could have one of the best perimeter defenses we’ve ever seen this year between Lebron, Wade and Battier and Joel Anthony’s shotblocking compliments this, but I’ve still yet to see a truly dominant Heat offense that they’d need to make a run at historical team records. I could also see the Heat smartly easing down on their big stars minutes this year, as they only care about the playoffs. Nevertheless they should cruise through a lot of games due to talent level and defense to a roughly 59 W equivalent year.

1. Chicago Bulls (51-15) – I like the Bulls to have a better record than the Heat again because of their depth in the compressed schedule. Once again getting to throw the Taj Gibson, Omar Asik frontcourt at teams in the second unit is a big luxury. Like Miami they’ll dominate defensively and on the boards, but will look better offensively this year thanks to Rip Hamilton’s addition and a healthy Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah front-court. Derrick Rose’s scoring may drop but his assists per game number will rise, as he becomes more of a pass first player and looks to control the ease and flow of his teammates and who needs the ball the most. I expect the Bulls to have a dominant regular season.

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Written by jr.

December 24, 2011 at 3:52 pm

One Response

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  1. Wall really seems to have a low basketball IQ, which is really weird considering that he is a point guard. He’s turning the ball over even more than last season (in a small sample size, but still). We’ll have to wait to year 3 though to start calling him a bust. Maybe it would help if he played on a team which is not full of other low BB IQ players and had a good (ex PG) coach

    J

    December 29, 2011 at 10:01 am


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